While these two words can be used relatively interchangeably, a defensive specialist (DS) in volleyball is completely distinct from a libero.
So what does a volleyball defensive specialist do? A veteran player on the team who is skilled in defense technique and strategy is called a defensive specialist in volleyball. This position is distinct from the libero. During their most challenging games, they have the responsibility of replacing the team’s weaker players and supporting their defense and morale.
The defensive specialist position in volleyball is designated as DS. Along with the setter, middle blocker, outside hitter, opposite hitter, and libero, this is one of the roles on the team.
Defenders with strong passing and digging skills are known as defensive specialists. Two positions that emphasize ball control are the libero and the DS. Their responsibility is to start each play with a strong pass.
Consistency is what defines a defensive specialist. They are a dependable role player who consistently makes good passes during the serve and receive, consistently digs, effectively covers the field defensively, and potentially serves well.
What Are The Differences Between DS And Libero?
However, some teams still use the positional function of DS. This can be any player with a talent for defense, but it typically refers to a player with extensive experience and in-depth game knowledge.
The DS and libero differ primarily in 4 ways:
- Jersey Color
The DS, unlike the libero, does not don a distinctive jersey. They must use an official substitution to enter and exit the court and play according to the same regulations as a regular member of their team. This often restricts their scope to one (or two in the US) rotations.
The DS is not constrained by these restrictions, whereas the libero is not permitted to spike or make contact with the ball above the height of the net.
In fact, back-row spiking, or attacking from behind the 10-foot line, is a specialty of the DS rather frequently. This gives their team an additional offensive option and, if necessary, frees up the front row to concentrate on blocking, strengthening that area of the team’s defense.
- Court Mobility
The DS is not limited to the back row and can circle entirely around the court if left unsubbed, despite the fact that they frequently join the court for the entirety of the back row rotation. In contrast, the libero is unable to play in the front row.
There are times when this is necessary when the coach gives the spiker a mental or physical rest and allows the DS full control of two backcourt rotations. Although each team has its own distinctive approach, the DS provides possibilities.
- Game Time
The libero is always on the court and can be easily identified by their off-color jersey. They are the center of attention for spectators and other teams, who follow their location constantly. The libero is nearly always on the court throughout a game, regardless of the strength of the opposition.
In the absence of this, the DS must assist their team in “side-outing” and rotate through their strongest hitters in order to resume scoring.
This implies that the DS might occasionally only play for five minutes per game. It usually lasts closer to twenty minutes, but without the brief window of opportunity, their team could have fallen short.
Why Is Defensive Specialist A Great Position To Play?
Although the DS and libero positions are quite similar, I greatly prefer to play the DS because you can never play the front as a libero. Many players enjoy the opportunity to play in the front row, even if they are not strong hitters.
As a defensive specialist, that’s obviously not where you’ll spend most of your time, but it is a possibility. As a libero, you are aware that you will never be at the front going into the game.
You are a DS with flexibility. The libero will typically serve for one of the center blockers if they have a stronger serve while swapping out with the other. Your coach has options when deciding who to switch you out with as you are a defensive specialist.
You might get more playing time than you anticipate if you put in the effort to improve your blocking and hitting methods. You can be the greatest choice to help fill in for them if coaches become dissatisfied with one of their hitters from time to time.
Why Do You Need A Defensive Specialist?
Although a team doesn’t “require” a defensive specialist, I think any squad with one will perform and progress more effectively over time. A DS performs a variety of duties for a team, all of which a coach should take into account before choosing or passing over during trials.
Here are the top 3 reasons why teams need DSs:
A DS frequently serves as an example for their team. As one of more seasoned players, they should serve as an example for the younger players or those new to the sport, coaching and guiding them to develop into valuable team members.
Being a DS is not the most glamorous job, and despite being a skilled player, the DS is frequently modest. They have a strong attitude because of their unwavering sense of self-worth, which they employ to keep the other players on the court calm during crucial moments so they can stay focused on the game and turn things around.
It’s not surprising, then, that many DS players frequently serve as vice-captains or leaders of their teams. And DS players frequently go on to have successful coaching careers in the future.
Having a DS frequently improves collaboration. They know how and when to make the appropriate decisions due to their incredible depth of game knowledge, which has helped them gain the respect and trust of their squad. The squad is able to work together more efficiently and give a play their all thanks to their teammates’ trust.
While every team has a captain who directs the practice and is in charge of the squad’s welfare, some teams elect “row-captains” for the front court and rear court during competition. These are typically specialized players who have been assigned by their team to head up the defense in order to improve teamwork in that area.
Physically, the DS helps collaboration to flow more smoothly with their defensive abilities. They can transform hopeless points into victories by maintaining the positive attitude of their teammates and keeping the ball in play. This skill, which they acquired through experience and a rock-solid mentality, demonstrates their devotion to volleyball.
What Makes A Good DS In Volleyball?
The first thing that comes to mind when we think of our “bomb squad” analogy is “performs well under pressure.”
- Keeps Their Cool Under Pressure
A DS doesn’t enter the match when the first set is tied at 5-5; rather, they do so when the match is close and the stakes are high. They must unquestionably be able to do the task, even when much depends on each individual point. It kind of goes without saying that they’ll need to be especially strong on defense.
- Exceptional Passing Ability
The main manifestation of this defensive excellence is extremely precise passing.
It’s challenging to substitute someone in with the intention of “making a dig,” but it makes sense to remove a poor passer and replace them with a strong passer.
In order to maximize your chances of making a flawless pass, killing the ball, and winning the point, you need to place all three of your greatest passers in the service-receiving lineup.
- Back Row Hitting Ability Is A Bonus
If the DS can hit from the back row, that is also very useful.
They are on the field primarily to pass the ball, but if they can also be an offensive option, that is a very welcome addition.
Similar to a libero, a defensive specialist sits in the back row and serves as well as plays defense. They are only in for three out of the six rotations since, unlike the libero, they do not wear different-colored jerseys and must comply by the standard substitution restrictions.